President Obama’s Tumblr Q&A at the White House

President Obama’s Tumblr Q&A at the White House


The President: Hello, everybody. Audience Members: Hi. The President: You don’t
have to be so formal. (laughter) Sheesh. Come on, now. Mr. Karp: This is unusual. Thank you. Thank you, everyone, and
welcome to the White House. Thank you for having
us, Mr. President. I’m David Karp, the
founder of Tumblr, and it is my tremendous
privilege to be here with President Obama today and
joined by the Tumblr community. Thank you for
joining us, everyone. Yesterday, the President signed
an executive order intended to curb the pain of student debt. Americans now hold more than
a trillion dollars in student debt, one of the greatest
expenses they’ll incur in their lifetime. And the generation that’s
just reaching college age is beginning to wonder
if it’s even worth it. One-third of Americans who have
applied for an education loan this year also
happen to use Tumblr, so last week we asked our
audience if they had questions that they’d like to ask the
President about the cost value and accessibility of
higher education — turns out they had quite a few. We’re not going to be able to
get through all of them today, but the President has been kind
enough to give us some time at his house to answer
some of those questions. (laughter) So again, huge thank you
for making yourself available today. Anything you’d like to
add before we start? The President: Well, first of
all, this is a rental house. (laughter) I just want to be clear. My lease runs out in about
two and a half years. Second of all, I want to
thank David and the whole Tumblr community for
participating in this. We’re constantly looking for
new ways to reach audiences that are relevant to the
things we’re talking about. And, obviously, young people
disproportionately use Tumblr. A lot of Tumblr users are
impacted by student debt. So for you to be able to
give us this forum to speak directly to folks is
wonderful, and I’m looking forward to a whole bunch
of good questions. Mr. Karp: Thank you. Okay, so everybody is clear on
how the questions work — so since we closed for
questions at 5:00 p.m. yesterday, we brought together
a team of influential Tumblr bloggers who helped us select
some of the best questions. There are — a few
of them, anyway, are joining us in the audience in the State Dining
Room here today. Neither the White House nor
the President have seen any of these questions
in advance. Should we get started? The President: Let’s go. Mr. Karp: All right. So, first came in
from Caitlin. I appreciate your willingness to
work with legislators to attempt to retroactively diffuse the
cost of some student’s loans by creating new repayment plans,
but this seems to me like an attempt to put a band
aid on a broken leg. What are we doing to actually
lower the cost of a college degree — excuse me — of
college tuition so these loans will no longer be necessary? The President: Well,
it’s a great question. Let me give people some
context for what’s happened over the last 20, 30 years. I graduated from college
in ’83; graduated from law school in 1990. And although I went
to a private school, through a combination of grants,
loans and working I had a fairly low level of debt that I
was able to pay in one year without getting an
incredibly well-paying job. I was able to keep my
debt burden pretty low. Folks who were 10
years younger than me, they probably paid even less. And if you went to a
state school at the time, typically people would come out
with almost no debt whatsoever. Today, the average debt
burden, even for young people who are going to a public
university, is about $30,000. And that gives you some sense of
how much the cost has escalated for the average young person. Now, you mentioned earlier
some people are wondering, is this a good investment. It absolutely is. The difference between a
college grad and somebody with a high school diploma is about
$28,000 a year in income. So it continues to be a
very smart investment for you to go to college. But we have to find
ways to do two things. One is we have to lower the
costs on the front end. And then, if you do have to
supplement whatever you can pay with borrowing, we’ve
got to make sure that that is a manageable debt. And about 12 months ago,
maybe 16 months ago, I convened college and
university presidents around the country to start
working with them on how we could lower debt — or
lower tuition, rather. The main reason that tuition has
gone up so much is that state legislatures stopped subsidizing
public universities as much as they used to, in part because
they started spending money on things like prisons
and other activities that I think are
less productive. And so schools then made
up for the declining state support by jacking
up their tuition rates. What’s also happened is, is that
the costs of things like health care that a university community
with a lot of personnel has to shoulder, those
costs have gone up faster than wages and incomes. The combination of those things
has made college tuition skyrocket faster than
health care costs have. There are ways we can
bring down those costs, and we know that because
there are some colleges who have done a very good
job in keeping tuition low. We also have to do a better
job of informing students about how to keep their debt
down — because, frankly, universities don’t always
counsel young people well when they first come in; they
say, don’t worry about it, you can pay for it — not
realizing that you’re paying for it through borrowing that
you’re going to end up having to shoulder once you graduate. Mr. Karp: What does that
help, what does that support look like? So Chelsea sent in a very
similar question from Portland. So she asks: “Colleges help
students get into debt. They don’t often help offer
financial planning services before school, after
they graduate.” Do you guys have a plan to
help students make sound financial decisions? I mean, these are teenagers who
are making decisions sometimes amounting to hundreds of
thousands of dollars that are going to follow them
through their entire lives. Hopefully, they have parents
who can help them navigate those decisions. But if they don’t,
are they on their own? The President: Well, we are
already doing something we call Know What You Owe. And the idea is to work with
every college, university, community college out there so
that when you come into school, ideally even before you accept
admission from a school, you are given a sense of what
your annual loans might be, what your financial package is
going to translate into in terms of debt — assuming you go
through a four-year degree on schedule, and what
your monthly payments are likely to be afterwards. And so just that one step alone
— making sure that schools are obliged to counsel you on the
front end when you come in, as opposed to just on the exit
interview once you’ve already accumulated the debt — that
in and of itself can make a big difference. Mr. Karp: Understood. We didn’t get first
names for everybody. So Haiku Moon asks — (laughter) The President: That
might be the first name. That’s a cool name. (laughter) Mr. Karp: “It wasn’t until
after I graduated college that I realized what I
wanted to do with my life. Now I have a degree that
has very little to do with that goal and a
mountain of debt. I can’t help but wonder if
I wasn’t pressured to go to college and was
better prepared to make that decision, and if
I was better prepared to make that decision,
that I might be in a better place to
pursue my dreams today. How can we change the public
education system to better prepare and support young people
making this huge decision?” I mean, again, teenagers
deciding what they want to do for the rest
of their lives. The President: Well, one of
the things that Haiku Moon is alluding to is that high
school should be a time in which young people
have greater exposure to actual careers as opposed
to just classroom study. And I went to a wonderful school
in New York called P-TECH, went there for a visit. What they’ve done is they have
collapsed high school basically into a three-year program. You can then extend for
another two years and get an associate’s degree. IBM is working with them
so that if, in fact, they complete the curriculum
that IBM helped to design, they know they’ve got a
job at IBM on the back end. And that’s just one example of
what I’d like to see a lot more high schools do, which is give
young people in high school more hands-on experience, more
apprenticeships, more training. If you are somebody who is
interested in graphic design, I’d rather have you work at a
company doing graphic design your senior year or junior
year to see if you actually like it, to get a sense of
the training you need. You may not need a
four-year degree. You might only need
a two-year degree. You might be able to work
while getting that degree. All that can save you money. So that can make a really big
difference for high school kids. At the same time, one of the
things that we initiated several years back is something called
income-based repayments. And that’s something I
really want to focus on, IBR for short —
income-based repayments. What we did in 2011 was to say
all student loans going forward, if you have a debt and you
decide you want to go into a job that — like
teaching or social work, that doesn’t
necessarily pay a lot, you shouldn’t be hampered
from making that choice just because you’ve got such
a significant debt load. So what we said was that we will
cap your repayments of your loans at 10 percent of
your income above $18,000. And by doing that, that
gives people flexibility. It doesn’t eliminate your debt. But what it does is it makes it
manageable each month so that the career that you choose
may not be constrained, and we then have additional
programs so that if you go into one of the helping professions
— public service, law enforcement, social
work, teaching — then over time that debt could
actually be forgiven. Now, the problem with it was
that we passed this law in 2011; it only applied going forward. It didn’t apply retroactively. So yesterday what I did was sign
an executive action saying that the Department of Education is
going to be developing rules so that going backwards anybody
can avail themselves of this income-based repayments, because
I get a lot of letters from people who took out loans in
2005 or 2000 — they are also in a situation where they’re
making regular payments but it’s very hard for
them to make ends meet. And we want to ideally finish
what’s called the rulemaking process — nothing is easy
around here — hopefully by the time — say,
the end of next year, the rules will be in place,
that will be the law, and then everybody and not
just folks who borrowed after 2011 can take
advantage of that. But there’s not a lot
of knowledge of this, and I hope that the Tumblr
community helps to spread the word that this is something
already available for loans that you took out after 2011
and hopefully by next year it will be available for
people even if you took out your loans before 2011. Mr. Karp: Where do we find
information about it? The President: You should
go to whitehouse.gov, the White House website. It will then link
you to ED.gov, which is the Education
Department website. But whitehouse.gov I figure
is easier to remember. (laughter) Mr. Karp: Can you
elaborate real quick on encouraging public service? So Josh from Oak Park sent in a
really good question about this: “The U.S. has a long
history of encouraging college-age men and women
to give back to their larger communities through
organizations like the Peace Corps, through
organizations like Teach for America. Couldn’t we make a larger
commitment to that by creating tuition loan forgiveness
programs for those students who agree to work in those fields or
work in those geographic areas in need of skilled employees?” So you can imagine
family practice doctors, you can imagine
public defenders. The President: I mean, right now
we have some programs like this in place but they’re
typically relatively small, relatively specialized. So there are some
loan-forgiveness programs for primary care physicians who are
going out to rural communities or inner cities or
underserved communities. There are some programs that are
available through the AmeriCorps program for people who are
engaged in public service. They are not as broad-based and
widespread as I would like. And we have tried to work
with Congress — so far, unsuccessfully — to be able to
get an expansion of these areas. And let’s take health
care as an example. We know that the
population is aging. We know that we have
a severe shortage of primary care physicians. A lot of young doctors are going
into specialized fields like dermatology or plastic surgery
because you can make a relatively large profit, you
don’t end up having a lot of liability, and that’s not
really what we need more of. And so my hope is, is that
over time Congress recognizes that young people are
our most precious asset. There are some areas that we
know we need people to get into the field, our
best and brightest, and right now the financial
burdens are precluding them from doing it. And we could open up those
fields to a huge influx of talent if we were a
little smarter with it. Mr. Karp: So you’ve touched on
health care in public service and health care in general. You talk a lot
about STEM fields. So how do we promote — this
is one Orta asked: “How can we promote growth in STEM fields
without putting humanities on the back burner?” The President:
Well, first of all, I want to say I was
a humanities major. (laughter) I majored in
political science and I minored in English. And I was pretty good in math,
but in high school — I actually loved math and science until
I got into high school, and then I misspent those years. (laughter) And the thing about
the humanities was you could kind of talk your
way through classes, which you couldn’t do
in math and science. (laughter) So a great liberal arts
humanities education is still critically important,
because in today’s global economy, one of the most
important skills you have is your ability to work
with people and communicate clearly and effectively. Having said that, what is also
true is that technology is going to continue to drive innovation. And just to be a good citizen,
you need some background in STEM, and we are not
producing enough engineers, enough computer scientists,
enough math teachers and science teachers,
and enough researchers. And so I’m putting a big
emphasis on STEM in part because we have a shortage; not because
I’m privileging one over the other, but because we don’t
have as many people going into the STEM fields. And it starts early. Part of what we’re trying to do
is work with public schools to take away some of
the intimidation factor in math and science. Part of what we’re trying to
do is make sure that we are reaching to demographics that
are very underrepresented — and, yes, I mean you, women. Girls are still more
likely to be discouraged from pursuing math, science,
technology degrees. You see that imbalance
in Silicon Valley, you see it in a lot
of high-tech firms. And so we’re trying to lift up
curriculums that are interesting for kids, work with schools
in terms of best practices. One of the things that we’re
also discovering is that young people who have an interest
in math and science, when they go to college,
oftentimes they’re steered into finance because that’s
been perceived as the more lucrative option. And we’re trying to work with
universities and departments of engineering, for example,
to help mentor young people to understand that — if you
look at the top 100 companies in the country, you’ve
got a lot more engineers running companies than
you do folks who have a finance background. And so there are
great opportunities. And one of the things that
every young person should be thinking about is, A,
what’s their passion, what do they care about,
but they should also be taking a look at
where is there a demand. And frankly, if you’ve got
a science or engineering background, the likelihood of
you being unemployed is very low, because there’s always
going to be a need — and it doesn’t preclude
you from writing a haiku at some point and figuring
out some creative outlet. But having that discipline
and that skillset is still going to be invaluable. Mr. Karp: Well, you just
described it as really hard to navigate — again, a teenager
making the decision between passion or an industry that’s
going to have demand for them. So great question: “At this
point, I’m stuck between majors. I know the field I have a
passion for has a limited number of jobs, all of
which pay very little. Assuming I get the job, the low
income will make it difficult to pay the substantial
debt I’ll most likely be in from that education. There are other fields I know
I could succeed in and receive the higher salary, but
I’m afraid that one day I’ll realize I hate what I do.” Question was, how did you
decide on your career, and what advice do you have for
somebody who is coming up trying to navigate that marketplace
with demand or their passions? The President: Well — Mr. Karp: By the way, one
vote for keeping kids out of
finance. (laughter) The President: Or the law,
by the way, because — (laughter) we have enough lawyers. Although it’s a fine profession. (laughter) I can say that
because I’m a lawyer. I think everybody is different. But I do think
that, first of all, when I first got out of school I
worked for a year in a job that I wasn’t interested in because
I wanted to pay off my loans. Now, I had the
luxury, as I said, that my loan burden was only
— was small enough that I could pay it off in a year. But work is not always
fun, and you can’t always follow your bliss right away. And so I think that young
people should be practical. I know a lot of young people who
work for five years in a field that they may not be interested,
but it gives them the financial stability and the base from
which then to do what they want. And there’s nothing
wrong with that. The main advice I would give
young people starting off, though, is ultimately you
are going to do best at something you care
deeply about. And some people have probably
heard this said before, but if you really
enjoy what you do, then the line between work
and play starts vanishing a little bit. You still have to grind it
out, but you can get into that mindset where the creativity or
the effort and the sweat that you’re putting into what you
do doesn’t feel like a burden, it feels like an expression
of what you care about. And so I think your
career is not going to be a straight line
all the time. I think there may be times
where you got to take a detour and you got to do something
practical to pay the bills. There are going to be times
where you see an opportunity, and you’re making a calculated
risk that I’m going to start some wacky
company called Tumblr. (laughter) And how you balance the
practical with your highest aspirations is something
that will be different for each person. Everybody is going to have
different circumstances. Mr. Karp: What do you say to
kids right now who ask you — they see their passion, they
want to build big stuff for the Internet. They want to build the
next big app or the next big social network. What do you tell them, when
they say, hey, look, David, Zuckerberg, Jobs, Gates,
all these guys — The President: Just
dropped out of school. Mr. Karp: — might not
necessarily deserve to get a company up, but
dropped out of school? The President: Yes. I mean you wouldn’t
know it looking at you, but you’re like
LeBron or Durant. (laughter) I mean, you guys don’t
have the same physiques — (laughter) but there are only going
to be so many Zuckerbergs or Gates who are able
to short-circuit the traditional path. If you can, more power to you. But let me put it this way: Had
you not — let’s say Tumblr had been a bust, right? Or Facebook had just ended
up being some dating site that nobody was
really interested in. Mr. Karp: We’d be
in a hard place. The President: Well, but
the truth is also you had the foundation where you
could go back to school, right? I mean, it wasn’t as if you
were suddenly operating without a net. I’m assuming that you
would have been readmitted to whatever institution
you were in. And if not, then you would
go to another school and you’d do fine. So the issue is not whether
you may not want to take a risk at some point. The point is that for the
average young person an investment in college is always
going to be a smart investment. Making sure you know what it
is that you’re investing in is important. One of the biggest areas where
we see a problem is young people who are going, let’s say, to
technical schools or community colleges or some of these
for-profit universities, they’re promised a lot. But they haven’t done the
research to see, okay, does typically a graduate coming
out of one of these schools get a job in the occupation? Are they actually making money? If you’re going to have
$50,000 worth of debt, you better have factored in what
are the employment prospects coming out. And so I think it’s good for
young people — not only good, it’s imperative for young
people to be good consumers of education, and don’t just
assume that there’s one way of doing things. We tell our daughters — Malia
is now — she’ll be 16 next month, and she’s going
to be in the college process. And we tell her, don’t assume
that there are 10 schools that you have to go to, and if
you didn’t go to those 10, that somehow things are
going to be terrible. There are a lot of
schools out there. There are a lot of options. And you should do your
research before you decide to exercise one of
those options. Having said that, the
overwhelming evidence is that a college education
is the surest, clearest path into the middle class
for most Americans. Mr. Karp: Is the White House
right now offering any of those tools to be a good a
consumer, to navigate all the choices out there? The President: Yes, yes. So if you go to whitehouse.gov,
which will link you to the Department of Education, one of
the things that we’re doing is to — we’re starting to
develop a scorecard for colleges and universities so you have
just a general sense of what’s the typical graduation rate,
what’s the typical debt that you carry once you get out,
what is the employment rate for graduates five
years afterwards. And over time, one of the
things that we’re trying to do is develop a ranking
system that is not exactly the same as the typical
college-ranking systems that you see in U.S. News and
World Report, for example. Part of the problem with the
traditional ranking systems of schools is that, for example,
high cost is actually a bonus in the ranking system. It indicates prestige, and so
there may be some great schools that are expensive, but what
you’re missing is a great school that may give you
much better value, particularly in the
field that you’re in. Now, there’s some controversy,
I want to confess, about — that a lot of colleges
and universities say, you know, if you start ranking just based
on cost and employability, et cetera, you’re missing the
essence of higher education and so forth. What we’re really trying to
do is just identify here are some good bargains, here
are some really bad deals. Then there’s going to be a bunch
of schools in the middle that there’s not going to be a huge
amount of differentiation. But what we are trying to do is
make sure that students have enough information going
into it that they don’t end up in a school that is
pretty notorious for piling a lot of debt on their students
but not really delivering a great education. Mr. Karp: Back to the debt,
which is top of mind for everybody here today — so
Megan from Tulsa asked an interesting question: “Of my
$220,000 in student loans — The President: Yikes. Mr. Karp: — from college and
law school” — there you go — “less than half is receiving the
benefit of loan forgiveness.” Why is there no discussion
on the mounting private student loan debt? The President: Well,
there is a discussion. The problem is we just end up
having less leverage over that. I mean, the truth is, is
that both legislatively and administratively we have
some impact on federal loans. Private loans — if you take —
if you go to a private company and you’re taking out a loan,
we have the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau that is trying
to regulate this area and make sure that you have full
information about what you’re getting yourself into. It’s another version
of Know Before You Owe. But it’s harder for us to
restructure some of that debt. Now, one thing that I think is
really important for everybody to know here — because this
is actual action you can take, as opposed to just
listening to me blather on. This week, there will be a vote
in the United States Senate on a bill sponsored by
Elizabeth Warren, the Senator from Massachusetts. And what this bill would
do would allow students to refinance their existing
loans at today’s rates. The reason that’s important is
because rates have been low, and typically there’s going to
be a pretty big spread between the rates that a lot of
students — the interest rates that a lot of students have
on their debt right now, versus what they could
do if they refinanced, the same way that a lot of
people refinance their mortgages to take advantage
of historically low rates. And so this vote is coming up. It will come up this week. I think everybody on Tumblr
should be contacting their senators and finding out where
they stand on the issue, because — and, by the way, this
is something that will not add to the deficit, because the way
we pay for it is we say that we’re going to eliminate some
loopholes right now that allow millionaires and billionaires
to pay lower rates of taxes than secretaries and teachers. And so it would pay for itself. It’s a good piece
of legislation. It directly affects folks
in their 20s and 30s, and in some cases, their
40s and 50s and 60s. But particularly the young
people who use Tumblr, this is something that
you should pay a lot of attention to. Make sure that you are pushing
your senators around this issue. Mr. Karp: Particularly important
if you know you’re facing that debt already or you are already
today facing that debt. What’s the best way, though,
for people who are — again, they’re thinking about
higher education, they’re in school today,
and a thoughtful question. What is the best way for
students to have a voice in their own education? So much education today, I think
really — I don’t know, I mean, so many teenagers who feel like
education is happening to them. They’re going
through the motions. They know that this is what
they’re supposed to do, and so they follow along. How do we make sure
kids are driving? The President: Well, look,
at some point it’s going to be up to the young person
to drive that education. It’s not inevitable that you
just fasten your seatbelt and just go on a ride for four years
or two years or whatever it is. I mean, I have to say that
in my own college experience, I think the first two years I
was there thinking I’m just happy to be here and I’m having
fun and I’ll just sort of go through the motions. My last two years was when I
really became much more serious about what I was doing and
much more intentional about what I was doing. Too many young people see — and
I’m grossly generalizing now, so excuse me — but I use
myself as an example as well. I think too many of us see
college as a box to check or a place to have fun and
extend adolescence, as opposed to a opportunity for
each of us to figure out what is it that we’re good at, what
is it that we care about, what is it that we’re willing to
invest a lot of time and effort and energy into, how do
we hone some skills or interests or attributes
that we already have. And as a consequence, I
think young people waste a lot of time in school. of folks who are working
while going to school,
0:31:02.300,1193:02:47.295
Now, again, I’m generalizing,
because there are a whole bunch while helping out their
parents — in some cases, they’re already
parents themselves. And so everything I just
said does not apply to you. It’s interesting — one of the
reasons I think I did well in law school was because I had
worked for three and a half years so that by the time I got
to law school I actually knew why I was studying the law, and
I knew exactly what I wanted to get out of it — not to mention
the fact that the idea of just going to class for three hours a
day and then reading didn’t seem particularly oppressive to me,
whereas young people who had come straight out of college
thought, this is horrible. Try working for a while
and then you realize that this is a pretty good deal. (laughter) But I think that part of
what we as adults have to do goes back to what I
said about high schools. Education is not
a passive thing. You don’t tip your head and
somebody pours it into your ear. It is an active process of
you figuring out the world and your place in it. And the earlier we can
help young people — not lock them in. Look, nobody expects that
somebody who is 16 automatically knows exactly what
they want to do, and people may change
their minds repeatedly. But what we can do is expose
young people to enough actual work and occupations that they
start getting a feel for what they would be interested in. And I really want to work
with more school districts, and I’ve asked the Secretary
of Education, Arne Duncan, to work with more
school districts, and we’re actually giving grants
to school districts that are thinking creatively about
how high school can be used more effectively. I don’t want a young person who
knows that they want to go into the trades to just waste four
years of high school and then they’ve got to go through two
years of apprenticeship and classwork before they
become a contractor. I’d rather have them doing
contracting while also getting some other educational exposure
so that they’re getting a jump on the things
that they want to do. And they can save a lot
of money in the process. Mr. Karp: So Beth asked a
question close to that point. Instead of pushing all
students into college, shouldn’t we focus on the other
side — increasing the minimum wage and making it viable,
livable to enter the workforce straight out of high school? Should we be doing both? The President: Absolutely. Well, here is what I would say:
There are very few jobs now where you’re not going to
need some advanced training. One of the great things about
being President is I get to visit companies and
worksites and factories. And if you go into the average
auto company today, for example, first of all, it’s not at
all what you’d imagine — it is spotless and it is
quiet, and it is humming, because it is all mechanized
and computerized at this point. And even if you have a
four-football-field-sized assembly line, most of the
people there are working with machines and they’re working
on computer keyboards. So having some basic
training in math, some familiarity with computers,
some familiarity with programming and code — all
that is a huge advantage if you are trying to get a
job on an assembly line. Now, if that’s true
for assembly line work, that’s certainly going to be
true for any other trade that you’re interested in. We do have to do a better
job of giving young people who are interested an effective
vocational education. And there are tons of
opportunities out there for people — here’s an interesting
statistic: The average trade person in Wisconsin —
and what I mean by that is an electrician, a
plumber, a carpenter, a machine tool worker — the
average age in Wisconsin is 59 years old. Now, these jobs typically
pay 25, 30 bucks an hour, potentially, with benefits. You can make a really
good living doing that, and there are a lot of
folks who love doing it. It’s really interesting work
and highly skilled work. So I don’t want somebody to find
out about that when they’re 30, after they’ve already taken a
bunch of classes and stuff that they ended up not using; now
they’ve got a bunch of debt. I’d rather, if they
got that inclination, to figure that early and be able
to go straight into something that helps them get that job. Mr. Karp: So one question we
heard a lot from our community that I wanted to make sure to
mention today: Recently — I think you’ve been
following — the Department of Ed’s Office of Civil
Rights and DOJ have extended Title IX protections
to trans students. What do you see as the next
steps to ensure equal treatment of trans people in
schools in America? The President: Well, Title
IX is a powerful tool. It’s interesting — yesterday
I had the University of Connecticut men’s and
women’s basketball teams here. This is only the second time
that the men’s and women’s basketball teams won the
national championship in the same year. The previous year was 2004,
and it was UConn again. But what was interesting
about it is that the men were kind of a surprise. It was nice. The women were dominant. I mean, the UConn Husky
women’s program, they rule. And they are
incredible athletes. And talking to
these young women, they’re poised and
they’re beautiful, and some of them are 6’6″ and
they’re wearing high heels, and supremely confident
and competitive. And that’s a huge shift
from even 20 years ago or 30 years ago. The reason for that was Title
IX was applied vigorously in schools, and it gave
opportunities — it’s not like women suddenly became athletes. They were athletic before. Michelle, when I work out with
her, she puts me to shame. (laughter) But it had more to do
with restrictions and opportunity. So the point I’m making is, is
that Title IX is a very powerful tool. The fact that we are applying it
to transgender students means that they are going to be in a
position to assert their rights if and when they see that
they are being discriminated on their college campuses. And that could manifest itself
in a whole variety of ways. Mr. Karp: Brilliant. This one was sent in
a few days ago: “Mr. President, my name is Nick
Dineen, and I attend school at the University of
California-Santa Barbara. I was the RA for the floor that
George Chen lived on last year as a first-year college student. I knew him. Elliot Rodger killed him and
five more of my fellow students. Today, another man has
shot and killed at least one person and injured
three others at a private Christian
school in Seattle. What are you going to do? What can we all do?” And of course, another mass
shooting this morning. The President: I have to say
that people often ask me how has it been being President, and
what am I proudest of and what are my biggest disappointments. And I’ve got two and
a half years left. My biggest frustration so far is
the fact that this society has not been willing to take some
basic steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who can
do just unbelievable damage. We’re the only developed country
on Earth where this happens. And it happens now once a week. And it’s a one-day story. There’s no place else like this. A couple of decades ago,
Australia had a mass shooting similar to Columbine or Newtown. And Australia just said,
well, that’s it — we’re not seeing that again. And basically imposed very
severe, tough gun laws. And they haven’t had
a mass shooting since. Our levels of gun violence
are off the charts. There’s no advanced,
developed country on Earth that would put up with this. Now, we have a
different tradition. We have a Second Amendment. We have historically
respected gun rights. I respect gun rights. But the idea that, for example,
we couldn’t even get a background check bill in to make
sure that if you’re going to buy a weapon you have to
actually go through a fairly rigorous process so
that we know who you are, so you can’t just walk up to a
store and buy a semiautomatic weapon — it makes no sense. And I don’t know if anybody saw
the brief press conference from the father of the
young man who had been killed at Santa Barbara. And as a father myself, I just
could not understand the pain he must be going through
and just the primal scream that he gave out — why aren’t
we doing something about this? And I will tell you, I
have been in Washington for a while now and most
things don’t surprise me. The fact that 20 six-year-olds
were gunned down in the most violent fashion possible and
this town couldn’t do anything about it was stunning to me. And so the question then becomes
what can we do about it. The only thing that is going
to change is public opinion. If public opinion does not
demand change in Congress, it will not change. I’ve initiated over 20 executive
actions to try to tighten up some of the rules in the
laws, but the bottom line is, is that we don’t have enough
tools right now to really make as big of a dent as we need to. And most members of Congress
— and I have to say, to some degree, this is
bipartisan — are terrified of the NRA. The combination of the NRA and
gun manufacturers are very well financed and have the capacity
to move votes in local elections and congressional elections. And so if you’re running
for office right now, that’s where you feel the heat. And people on the other side may
be generally favorable towards things like background checks
and other commonsense rules but they’re not as motivated. So that’s not — that doesn’t
end up being the issue that a lot of you vote on. And until that changes, until
there is a fundamental shift in public opinion in which
people say, enough, this is not acceptable,
this is not normal, this isn’t sort of the price
we should be paying for our freedom, that we can have
respect for the Second Amendment and responsible gun owners and
sportsmen and hunters can have the ability to possess weapons
but that we are going to put some commonsense rules in place
that make a dent, at least, in what’s happening — until
that is not just the majority of you — because that’s
already the majority of you, even the majority of
gun owners believe that. But until that’s a view that
people feel passionately about and are willing to go after
folks who don’t vote reflecting those values, until
that happens, sadly, not that much is
going to change. The last thing I’ll say: A lot
of people will say that, well, this is a mental health problem,
it’s not a gun problem. The United States does not have
a monopoly on crazy people. (laughter) It’s not the only country
that has psychosis. And yet, we kill each other in
these mass shootings at rates that are exponentially
higher than anyplace else. Well, what’s the difference? The difference is, is that these
guys can stack up a bunch of ammunition in their
houses and that’s sort of par for the course. So the country has to do some
soul searching about this. This is becoming the norm, and
we take it for granted in ways that, as a parent,
are terrifying to me. And I am prepared to
work with anybody, including responsible
sportsmen and gun owners, to craft some solutions. But right now, it’s not even
possible to get even the mildest restrictions through
Congress, and we should be ashamed of that. Mr. Karp: Thank you for taking
the time to answer that one. Obviously an incredibly
difficult and disappointing conversation to have. It looks like we have time
for one more question, so let’s switch over
to a lighter one. There are plenty of young people
out there today who are watching your career incredibly closely. They’re thinking about their
futures, their careers, their educations that
they’re going off to pursue. Astonishment asked, “Where do
you see yourself in 10 years?” (laughter) The President: Well, I haven’t
projected out 10 years. I’m really focused on making
sure that I make every day in the next two and a
half years count, because it’s an incredible
privilege to be in this office. And even when I’m frustrated
with Congress or I’m frustrated with the press and how it’s
reporting things and Washington generally, I also know that
there’s something I can do every single day that’s helping
somebody and that sometimes without a lot of fanfare we’re
making it easier for a business to get a loan, and we’re making
it easier for a young person to get an education, and we’re
making it easier for a family to get health care, and making sure
that each day I come away with something that we’ve done to
make it a little easier for folks to work their way
into the middle class, to stay in the middle class,
to save for retirement, to finance their kids’
college educations — that’s a good day for me. I know what I’ll do right
after the next President is inaugurated. I’ll be on a beach somewhere
drinking out of a coconut. (laughter) But that probably
won’t last too long. And one of the things that
Michelle and I have talked about a lot is we’re really interested
in developing young people and working with them and
creating more institutions to promote young leadership. I’m so impressed when I meet
young people around the country. They’re full of passion. They’re full of ideas. I think they’re much wiser
and smarter than I was, part of it maybe is because
of Tumblr — I don’t know. (laughter) And so there’s just
huge potential. And the challenge is they’re
also fed a lot of cynicism. You guys are fed a lot of
cynicism every single day about how nothing works and
big institutions stink and government is broken. And so you channel a lot of
your passion and energy into various private endeavors. But this country has always been
built both through an individual initiative, but also a sense
of some common purpose. And if there’s one message I
want to deliver to young people like a Tumblr audience
is, don’t get cynical. Guard against cynicism. I mean, the truth of the
matter is that for all the challenges we face, all
the problems that we have, if you had to be — if you had
to choose any moment to be born in human history, not knowing
what your position was going to be, who you were going to
be, you’d choose this time. The world is less violent
than it has ever been. It is healthier than
it has ever been. It is more tolerant
than it has ever been. It is better fed
then it’s ever been. It is more educated
than it’s ever been. Terrible things happen around
the world every single day, but the trend lines of
progress are unmistakable. And the reason is, is because
each successive generation tries to learn from previous mistakes
and pushes the course of history in a better direction. And the only thing that stops
that is if people start thinking that they don’t make
a difference and they can’t make changes. And that’s fed in our
culture all the time. It’s fascinating to me —
I don’t consume a lot of television, but generally,
the culture right now is inherently in a cynical
mood in part because we went through a big trauma
back in 2007, 2008 with the financial crisis, and
we went through a decade of wars that were really tough. And that’s the era in
which you were born. But look out on the
horizon, and there’s a lot of opportunity out there. And that’s what I’d like
to do after the presidency, is make sure that I help young
people guard against cynicism and do the remarkable
things they can do. Mr. Karp: Beautiful. Mr. President, thank you so
much for taking time to answer our questions
today, really. The President: We
had a great time. Mr. Karp: Thank you. (applause) The President: Appreciate it. It was great. Thank you. Mr. Karp: Was that okay? I’ve never talked to
a President before. The President: He’s a natural. He could have gone
into journalism. Mr. Karp: I’ve never talked
to a President before. Thank you so much. Hey, real quick,
guys, before we go, I would really like to thank
the President for having us over to his rental
property today. (laughter) It really does mean a lot
to our community to know that America’s leader
is listening to us. I hope we’ve all come away
with a clear picture as to the issues that
we’re facing. Please make sure to follow
WhiteHouse.tumblr.com. And lastly, please wish
— excuse me — Sasha a happy 13th birthday from us. The President: It is
Sasha’s birthday today. (applause) Mr. Karp: Now that’s
she’s 13, guys — (applause) now that she’s 13 according
to our terms of service, she’s officially old
enough to use Tumblr. (laughter) Let us know. The President: So she
wasn’t before then? (laughter) Mr. Karp: She wasn’t. Sorry. We can let this one slide. (laughter) The President:
I going to have to talk to somebody about that. (laughter) Thank you, guys. Had a great time. (Applause.

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